Abe Selig
The Jerusalem Post
April 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Building projects over the Green Line, including a school and a synagogue in the Gilo neighborhood, and an extension to a synagogue in Pisgat Ze’ev, will be on the agenda when the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning and Building Committee meets on Thursday.

Despite reports that the Jerusalem Regional Planning and Building Commission is observing a de facto freeze with regard to east Jerusalem construction, the committee is set to meet on Thursday morning for back-to-back sessions dealing with building requests and permits for those and other potential projects.

Some 60 proposed items are to be heard during the full-day affair, and while many of the cases involve requests such as adding an extra floor to a building in Rehavia or remodeling an apartment in Talpiot, others may provoke the ire of the United States, which has recently begun to exert enormous pressure on Israel to halt all construction in east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Seized upon by foreign media outlets earlier in the week as an additional case of “Israeli construction in illegal West Bank settlements,” the proposal to build a school and a synagogue in Gilo may elicit an international rebuke, since the neighborhood – although it is home to 40,000 people and will almost certainly be retained by Israel in any peace agreement – was built over the Green Line.

It remained unclear on Wednesday if an additional proposal, a request to add on to an existing synagogue in Pisgat Ze’ev – also located over the Green Line – would also stir up the kind of diplomatic hornet’s nest seen last month, when the approval of 1,600 housing units in the north Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo brought Israel-US relations to its lowest point in years.

While all of these proposals are just that – proposals – many are in the final stages of planning and are considered likely to be given the go-ahead.

Nonetheless, a number of additional east Jerusalem projects are also set to be considered during Thursday’s meetings, although they deal with homes owned by Palestinian residents of the capital.

At least five requests for various zoning-related issues in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Jebl Mukaber, Beit Hanina and Shuafat will be heard on Thursday, along with construction requests for residents of the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Abu Tor.

While only a portion of the proposed projects to be considered during Thursday’s meetings were made public on Wednesday, all of the information will be available on the Jerusalem Municipality Web site after the hearings have concluded on Thursday evening.

A spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office said that as a result of the diplomatic crisis caused by the announcement of a plan to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit here last month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu introduced new procedures to prevent any similar “surprises.”

These procedures, he said, were meant to ensure that no bureaucratic decision of consequence would be made regarding Jerusalem that would surprise the prime minister.

The source, though not knowing details of Thursday’s planning meeting, said he presumed the relevant authorities inside the Prime Minister’s Office had been apprised of it.


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